THERE are two ways of looking at “Gone Viral,” a solo exhibition by Ruzzeki Harris.
First is the technical point of view.
Let’s take “Device,” an oil-and-spray paint on canvas. Take note the choice of grey to convey the drabness of the circumstance in a piece that seems to convey how the masses have used smartphones to spread half truths and total untruths.
The jumbled images exemplifies how one can maintain order amid chaos by conforming to the six principles of painting — composition, form, colour, texture, balance and respect for space. Amidst the swirling miasma of intrusive markings and bomb dispensing flying Dumbos, you see Ruzzeki’s confidence in subject placement.
Another piece marked for technical speak is “Urban Wizard,” an oil-and-acrylic on canvas. Notice how Ruzzeki has rendered the arm of a selfie-loving subject to appear as if it is pixelating into oblivion.
Notice also how he has added blurring streaks behind the subject’s head to denote movement (as a way to convey the many unclear results of this subject’s photography efforts).
Another way to look at it is from a philosophical perspective.
Ruzzeki, 31, has plenty to say about what he thinks of our obsession with the smartphone.
One very telling piece is “#duckfies” where he defaces a beautiful girl by giving her a duck bill. Is he expressing distaste at how girls seem to like puckering their lips when taking selfies?
Then there is “Leka,” a depiction of a phone user getting his head blown off by an imaginary gun. Are we aware of the damage we can do, either to ourselves or others, by posting our anger and unreasonings online?
On the other hand, the piece also seems to question our independence as denoted by the broken wings. Are we so shackled to our handheld gadgets that without it, we would feel helpless and isolated?
Ruzzeki is not alone in his thoughts.
As observed by his former students who came to show their support for the former Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) lecturer, the current generation seems to have enslaved themselves to technology. How else does one explain people so engrossed with texting that they can lose awareness of their surroundings and fall into drains or be prey for muggers?
This father of one also expresses views on censorship.
In “Rebel”, the silenced subject dons a handkerchief over his face, an abject dismal figure. His false front, the one he is forced to put up, wears a pink bunny headband donned by a grinning skull — better be dead than to live a lie.
The show also hints at the artist’s predisposition to gender issues, such as in “Scandalous”.
In revealing what went on behind the scenes, Ruzzeki confessed work for the solo show had taken place at a challenging point in his life.
Based in Kuala Selangor, Ruzzeki was then minding his daughter, Aminah Malika, now two years old.
“My wife works so I take care of the baby. That means I only had time to paint at night.
“I tried working during the day but Aminah will come into my studio and ‘terrorise’ everything,” he said.
He did not want to put her in a playpen because “I can’t stand to hear her cry,” and he eschewed the idea of hiring a full-time nanny.
However, he was quick to point out burning the midnight oil had not tired him in the least.
“My work is not about will or capability but passion and desire,” he said.
Into his fourth solo exhubition, Ruzzeki said he got his big break in 2014 with “Point Blank” at Chan Hampe Galleries in Singapore where one of his pieces was acquired by a serious collector whose influence created the desired ripple for his career.
“I didn’t have to knock on any doors after that. They came looking for me,” revealed Ruzzeki.
“Gone Viral” will show until April 30 at Wei-Ling Gallery, No. 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 603-22601106 or e-mail email@example.com